Coco Busan

A glimpse of nights and days in Korea's gritty port city by the East China Sea.




The name Coco Busan merges one part myself and one part port-city-jammed-with-3.6-million-people on the South Korean coast.  The nickname Coco was given to me 10 years ago by my friend Sarah, who I roomed with briefly in a two-bedroom flat in Melbourne, Australia. Three months later I left to camp up the East Coast but the name stuck, made its way back to Canada when I returned home, and was adopted by a bunch of friends who are now scattered from Toronto to Victoria and who still call me only that. 

Busan is, as of Feb. 23, 2010, my new home.  It’s a brother or sister city to Seoul, a smaller, lesser-known and lesser-explored urban maze that, until six months ago, I didn’t know existed.  During a post-degree stint selling real estate in Edmonton and dreaming of ways to live overseas again despite my growing debt, I stumbled on a website that coined Busan ‘The San Francisco of Korea.’  ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to live in San Francisco.’ 

Six months later I landed. 

I’ve got a studio apartment in a neighbourhood called Dongnae, and a one-year contract teaching English to kids. I’ve brought a point-and-shoot digital with a 12x optical zoom, a yoga mat, an old Toshiba laptop, and a Korean phrasebook.  I’m 31, have never taught before, and came alone.

Intrigued by the relationship between a person and a place, I have chosen, for one year, to record Busan as I discover it–the street life and night life, the markets and beaches, the art, music, fashion, and food.  And, of course, the people.  I will seek out the strange and the cool.  I will try things I have never tried before.  I will carry with me a camera and a notebook, and in the late-night hours I will sit at my laptop in the lamplight and attempt to unravel the city and my evolving connection to it here, for you.  I invite you to wander with me…


A few facts:

~I grew up in Victoria, Canada, a kick-ass little city on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island.

~Busan is the second biggest city in Korea, and the world’s fifth biggest port.

~Five other foreigners work at the school where I teach, and we all live in the same apartment building.  They hail from Miami, Chicago, Virginia, and Lousiana.  I’m hoping to recruit them for various city adventures and missions.

~Located on Korea’s South East coast, Busan is bordered by a range of seven mountains and seven beaches.  I’m lucky enough to view what I think is Mt. Geumjeong from my apartment window. 

~Before completing a writing degree at the University of Victoria, travel was my focus.  I’ve lived in the UK, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand, and backpacked through Western Europe, Egypt, and South East Asia.  This is my first time to East Asia, and my first trip overseas in nine years.  I am so happy to be out in the world again.